Samba jazz Alley, by Ron Weinstock – Jazz and Blues

Pianist and arranger Adolfo has been one of the more prominent artists who, influenced by bebop, soul and West Coast Jazz trends, crafted a more rhythmically robust instrumental interpretation of the lithe and flirtatious bossa that became known as ‘Samba Jazz.” The title refers to an obscure dead-end alley in the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s storied Copacabana neighborhood that served as a breeding ground for the city’s up-and-coming instrumentalists and singers during the heyday of bossa nova. Adolfo advises us that the alley was known as Bottles Alley “because gneighbors in taller buildings used to throw bottles down from their apartments to protest the loud music and boisterous conversations below.” The alley “was like a cauldron of jazz, samba and bossa nova…”

Recorded in Brazil, Adolfo has a core ensemble that features the three-horn frontline of trumpeter Jesse Sadoc, woodwind artist Marcelo Martins and trombonist Rafael Rocha, and a rhythm section of Adolfo guitarist Lula Galvao, bassist Jorge Helder, drummer Rafael Barata, and percussionist Dada Costa. There are guests on some songs. Of the nine selections, two are Adolfo compositions, and the remainder feature his arrangements of classic bossa nova compositions.

The music is bright, breezy and full of slow-burning heat starting with “Ceu E Mar (Sky and Sea)” with his clean, crisp, horn arrangements giving a fuller sound than the three horn line-up might suggest, along with his deft piano. Martins is impressive in his fiery tenor sax solo followed by Adolfo fs lyrical playing and Helder fs bass solo. “Hello, Herbie” is a tribute to the Herbie Hancock that is in part a contrafact of “Cantaloupe Island” and Jesse Sadoc fs is incendiary, followed by Galvao’s fleet guitar. “So Por Amor (Just For Love)” from Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes opens with some precious piano, and this beautiful performance features Rocha’s marvelous, romantic trombone solo. Edu Lobo’s “Casa Forte” refers to a neighborhood in the northeastern Brazilian town of Recife.

“Tristeza De Nos Dois” is a gorgeous bossa ballad and features the harmonicas of Mauricio Einhorn, one of the composers of this number and a legendary player, and Gabriel Grossi, a current harmonica sensation. The weaving of the two harmonicas is engrossing and adds to the charm here. Two Jobim numbers round out this album, “Passarim (Little Bird)” with Martin’s marvelous soprano sax solo, and a performance of the celebrated “Corcovado” with the spotlight on Adolfo’f deft piano, Sadoc’s mellifluous flugelhorn and Martin’s alto flute. These splendid performances close another superb recording from this Brazilian jazz master.

Ron Weinstock